Colo. Bans Most Electronic Voting Machines
Security Risks, Inaccuracy Cited; Federal
Certification Process Called "Inadequate"
DENVER, Dec. 18, 2007
(AP) Colorado's top election official decertified
electronic voting machines used in many of the state's
largest counties Monday, calling into question
equipment used in past elections in a move he said
could have national implications.
Electronic voting machines used in Denver, Arapahoe,
Pueblo, Mesa and Elbert counties cannot be used in the
next election because of problems with accuracy or
security, Secretary of State Mike Coffman said.
A number of electronic scanners used to count ballots
were also decertified, including a type used by
Boulder County as well as more than three dozen small
to mid-size counties around the state.
His decision affects six of Colorado's 10 most
populous counties and three of the four equipment
manufacturers allowed in the state.
The manufacturers have 30 days to appeal.
Following a 2006 lawsuit that said electronic voting
equipment was vulnerable to tampering and should be
banned, Coffman announced in March that he had adopted
new rules for testing electronic voting machines.
He required the four electronic voting systems used in
all 64 Colorado counties to apply for recertification.
The four systems are manufactured by Hart InterCivic,
Premier Election Solutions - formerly known as Diebold
Election Systems - Sequoia Voting Systems and Election
Systems and Software.
Coffman had also put Denver, Pueblo, Douglas, Montrose
and Routt counties on an election watch list for
problems in the November 2006. Pueblo has since been
removed from the list.
"What we have found is that the federal certification
process is inadequate," Coffman said, adding, "There
are some issues here that need to be addressed."
The secretary said his decisions were based on an
exhaustive review of voting equipment. During a news
conference to present his findings he stood in front
of stacks of boxes and a library of binders he said
contained more than 160,000 documents on the state's
four election vendors.
Coffman would not comment on what his findings mean
for past elections, despite his reports that some
equipment had accuracy issues.
"I can only report," he said. "The voters in those
respective counties are going to have to interpret"
Two kinds of Sequoia electronic voting machines used
in Denver, Arapahoe, Pueblo and Elbert counties, were
decertified because of "a variety of security risk
Machines that scan and count ballots made by Hart
InterCivic failed because "they could not accurately
Hart is used in Boulder, Douglas and more than 40
And both optical scanning devices and electronic
voting machines made by Election Systems and Software
(ES&S) did not pass muster. ES&S is used by Jefferson
and Mesa counties.
Sequoia in a statement said it was reviewing the
175-page report on its system. Ken Fields, spokesman
for ES&S, said the decertification was based on
additional requirements recently imposed.
Peter Lichtenheld, a spokesman for Hart, said they
planned to appeal based on how the state conducted its
tests and maintenance of its machine. He said it
appeared state testers ran the same stack of ballots
through the machine several times, which could punch
holes in the paper ballots and skew the results.
"Hopefully, we have a leg to stand on there,"
Lichtenheld said. "Our systems are used nationwide and
they've been proven reliable and accurate across the
country, so there's no reason why it should be any
different in Colorado."
Sequoia and ES&S also said their systems had
previously been tested for accuracy, reliablity, and
security and would work with Coffman's office to meet
Only Premier Election Solutions, formerly named
Diebold Elections Systems, had all its equipment pass
Former District Court Judge Larry Manzanares, who
handled the lawsuit seeking electronic voting
machines' ban, chastised state officials for a sloppy
certification process. He allowed the machines' use in
the November 2006 election on the condition the state
recertified the machines.
Opponents of the machines said they should not have
been certified by former Secretary of State Gigi
Coffman, a Republican, was narrowly elected last
Several county clerk and recorders said they were
digesting the findings Monday evening.
"This report is really just part of the larger
equation for us," Denver Clerk and Recorder Stephanie
O'Malley said in a statement. "Once we feel we have
the full picture of what the Secretary of State's
report means, we can move forward with choosing our
systems and preparing for the 2008 election season."
Denver used a $1.4 million federal grant to buy 240
Sequoia electronic voting machines last year.
Jefferson County's clerk and recorder, Pam Anderson,
said "we will listen to (Coffman's) - perspective,
then work to adjust our election procedures
accordingly in order to ensure that the conduct of the
2008 elections is successful and every eligible voter
has the right to vote."
The news comes days after Ohio's Secretary of State
Jennifer Brunner urged Cuyahoga County to switch to
the optical scan system - ballots filled out by hand
and read by computer - in time for the state's March 4
presidential primary. She cited security flaws that
make the electronic ballots vulnerable to tampering
and the county's past problems with voting technology.
By George Merritt